Virtual Turbine Engine Test Bench

Innovation provides turbine engine learning solutions


Technology and innovation go hand-in-hand these days and drive much of what we do; or you can say technology drives innovation. Technology and innovation also are seen as major contributors to education and training. Many long and sometimes boring instructor-led lectures have given way to learning labs with individual computer-based training modules, virtual learning systems, and interactive educational solutions.

While cruising through the many exhibits at AirVenture 2012, a display with a small turbofan engine caught my attention. After a detailed briefing of the DGEN 380 engine and its features, I learned this compact jet engine was only one of the offerings of the French company Price Induction (PI). The offering I found more interesting was its turbine engine education solutions, one of which is the WESTT CS/BV virtual engine test bench which is based on the DGEN 380; more on the DGEN 380 later.

The virtual test bench

Learning the principles of a turbine engine is generally accomplished in a variety of classroom settings and eventually students involved in maintenance and operation of turbine engines may find themselves in an aircraft, simulator, or perhaps a test cell in a manufacturing or engine MRO facility. Now this can be accomplished in an environmentally friendly manner: no fuel, no noise, and no exhaust.

Christine Lloyd, North American representative for PI, says, “The WESTT CS/BV is a multipurpose simulation bench which can be used for any number of educational purposes such as learning the principles of turbine engines and actually operating a turbine engine.”

The test bench console appears similar to those operating in most turbine engine test cells with one major exception; there’s no real engine. The computer systems contain software which simulates the DGEN 380’s operating behavior. The console of the test bench contains three screens; a command screen on the left where the operator has the ability to control the engine and some outside parameters such as altitude, speed, and outside air temperature; a screen in the middle which displays the engine operating instrumentation (several types of displays are available on the test bench console depending on the educational goals targeted by the user); and the screen on the right which offers a 3-D display of the DGEN 380 engine during operation.

The right hand display screen provides visualization of the engine during all phases of operation including visualization of cold and hot air flow patterns, rotation of internal components, and the speeds of the individual engine sections for virtually any flight condition programmed into the simulation. The system has the ability to zoom in and out on areas of the engine, change the angle of view, show detailed images of engine sections or components, or hide sections or components from view.

Ms. Lloyd says, “In order to simulate the most modern technologies, actual full authority digital engine control (FADEC) hardware is included. The engine control unit (ECU) has the ability to calculate and control the simulated fuel mass flow according to the flight conditions chosen by the test bench operator. Engine operation is controlled mostly through a manual control; the power level angle (PLA). As PLA settings are changed, the engine (simulation) reacts just as if the engine was mounted inside an adjacent engine test cell or on an aircraft.”

The manual controls and instrumentation on the test bench provide direct access to all the necessary and simulated components such as the master switch, the mode selector for choosing engine mode (ignition, normal or crank), and to simulate flight conditions such as altitude, speed, and aircraft electrical consumption. The operator also has the ability to switch from manual controls to software controls. A wide range of failure modes can be programmed into the WESTT CS/BV to simulate a spontaneous failure or more subtle failure modes such as fuel leaks or a sensor malfunction.

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